In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Nature Camps, we’re introducing 40 alumnae, counselors and parents over the next several months.
These alumnae are dispersed around the globe, are passionate about their life’s work and the environment — many raising families and delighting in watching grandchildren — all continuing to work in the service of others.
Meet Shayna Tovah, aka Jane DeArmon during her Nature Camps’ years as a counselor from 1978 to 1982. Back then, camp was called Don Webb Nature Camps (DWNC). As you’ll learn, DWNC as a “family affair” for Shayna, her husband and three children. Today she lives in Sedona, Arizona.
Education: Masters: Ecopsychology/Education
California Institute of Integral Studies
In Shayna’s Words: DWNC was a family affair for the DeArmon family. There was myself, my sons Adam and Eric, their Dad De, and baby Max.
As a counselor, I chose to share with the campers my favorite activities. They included hiking until we were ‘lost’ looking for berries and making berry pies in the pit oven in the woods. We dug that deep hole originally to fire the pottery we made from the clay that campers and I dug from the riverbed.
Blindfold exploration was another favorite activity, I still laugh today about how I would take the C.I.Ts over to the compost pile for them to try to figure out where they were by listening tasting, smelling, and feeling without using their sight. Chipati (unleavened flatbread from India)baking over an open fire was another one of my favorite activities to share with campers.
Of course, morning and afternoon circle was awesome, singing and hearing Don read from Opal. Opal was our Nature version of Yoda. Everyone experiences Joy Feels at DWNC!
Overnights were a favorite for our family. Nighttime trail walks to the camp area without flashlights and encouraging the campers to rely on their senses was a real trip and very rewarding for all.
Moreover, it never failed –– 7-year-old Adam would wake before the sun would rise and utilize the lasting ember from the bonfire the night before and have a full-blown fire ready for the morning breakfast crew to cook up our meal to begin the day!
Family overnight evenings were filled with Nature plays put on by Adam, Eric, Kyle Hollingsworth, and some of the other CITs of the time.
In the darkest of nights, there would be woods fairies, gnomes, and unseeable beings flitting through the trees and shrubs dancing to the sound of De’s guitar and my thumb piano.
We built a “play pen” for baby Max in 1982 so he could sleep safely in the woods without being able to wonder off during the night!
There are so many memorable moments of DWNC for my family and myself; however, one that seems to be the most precious for me was to be anticipating the birth of our son Max at the end of the summer season.
The excitement of campers and other counselors as the possibility of him being born in the field in front of the bunkhouse was incredible. He was born 3 weeks after camp ended so that did not happen, but the following year he came back as a 10 month old and joined us. He learned to walk at that time –– barefooted –– following everyone on the trails. Max is best remembered as the baby who was covered with mango.
DWNC was, and still is, an integral part of each of our lives. I used those experiences and the activities I learned from Don years later in my graduate dissertation and created an academic learning approach (Ecopsychological Learning Approach) that contains some of the activities we did so long ago.
All of my children, and now grandchildren, continue to this day sharing their DWNC experiences in their work and play.
I am very grateful for the time we all had and to Don and many others who made our summers the blessings that they were and still are!